photo by  Margot Pandone

It is a box really, if you ask me.
Nailed on four sides, it could be a coffin,
Except I cannot lie dead in one.
Too real. And not true.
Instead, I live, dead, stuck in a box
Breathing sixteen millimeters of stale, dark air.
Some days it feels like a trap,
A tricky contraption, carefully designed
To stifle me, slowly, painfully,
And yes, alive.
Other days, it stands empty like a junction,
A stop sign, where I paused,
Before my life took a very wrong turn.

If you ask me for symbols, imageries, similes,
The metaphoric, the literal,
I will indulge you.
With a half-smile, an elusive gaze,
(That make me look like an evolved,
Esoteric being, lost in thought)
I will tell you how grief looks like,
Tastes, smells, sounds like.
Wait, I can even let you touch it.
I only touch it rarely,
But when I do, I scratch it, peel it
Little by little,
With my middle finger.
If you want to touch it politely though,
Please do. I think you’d like that.
Ugliness is not grief’s twin word
Until it touches you back.

And then, when you’ve come close, you think,
I will tell you about the time,
The exact time, date and all,
When grief felt like a bed.
Oh, of roses, you think?
(We’re talking in metaphors after all)
I don’t really remember that detail.
So you’re free to imagine.
I can just tell you how I lay in it.
Floating like air, daring to feel comfortable,
Until the bed started folding.

It wrapped me, engulfed me,
And folded my skin shut.
It gathered layer upon layer of me,
As I flattened in peace.
Yes, I know, I was folding into pieces too.
But I remember the peace more.
So I think you should know
That grief can be peaceful too.
I folded up, neat, quiet,
Shrinking, wrinkling every minute.
And yet, I still breathed the
Sixteen millimeters of stale air.

You can tell me to look for the keys,
Out of the box,
Or make a more carefully-designed plan
To escape the trap.
Surely I can look for directions
To find my way back
From that one wrong turn?
You don’t quite grasp the image of the bed.
(It’s too vague anyways)
So you think I should focus
On the other symbols.
Try to make sense, find a way,
Come to terms, look for answers.
Take the symbols for real,
The metaphorical for the literal.
Maybe art therapy would help?
To draw out my grief.
So it’s not too drawn out.

I think you could be right. Or not.
Or somewhere in between.
(As we all apparently are, you think)
But would you mind if I said,
That my strongest symbols are words?
The way I meaninglessly string them together.
In circles, squares, pointed towers,
Stacking them up until a ball of silence
Drops into the cacophony.
The words fill the shapes,
Stretching them at the seams,
They're strung, stacked, cracked,
Each running ahead of the other,
Each breathless with the emptiness
Between itself and what came before.
You see, I never find the one that follows.
What, who, should have followed me,
So now every word is a spinning atom,
A bounded square box,
A wrong turn, a purposeful trap,
A betraying bed.

So, as I think, speak, write,
My bereaved life in unbelieved words,
I scatter them around like bubbles,
I shatter them apart like glass.
And through a wall of welling water,
(No, not my tears, silly!)
I look for her face,
And my pieces in them.


What are the symbols that represent your grief? How do you see, hear, smell, taste and touch it? Do words help you describe the unimaginable pain of losing your baby?